I hope you enjoy this guest article by Glen Graham.

In the real economy privately earned profit is a collaborative effort. The general public contributes to the earnings of the private sector.

In his recent op-ed in the New York Times, Warren Buffet argues that the rich do not pay enough taxes and that the current tax code is therefore unfair to lower income earners. Read the full article here.

Warren Buffett is a very rich man, so his call for higher taxes on himself is noteworthy. However, his article fails to address a basic point. The negative response that greeted Buffett’s article reveals that many well-educated people still have no idea how the real economy works. Many still think that calls for higher taxes on high income earners is simply a way to “screw the rich,” as a recent Washington Post article put it in response to Buffett’s op-ed.

The Washington Post article goes on to argue that “the government should be starved of income and be forced to spend money where it’s supposed to – defending the border, establishing a trusted currency, and protecting property rights.” Whenever the government tries to do anything else “everyone gets poorer.” Social welfare is really a way of stealing from the rich and giving it to the poor. Instead we need to make “people dream of getting disgustingly rich, and then let them go out there and do it. After that, we celebrate them so that more people get the idea of getting rich, too. It’s what makes Silicon Valley work. And everyone benefits, even the people who don’t end up rich.”

The aim of the Washington Post article — to highlight the plight of the rich, who must suffer the wrath of the poor and always remain in danger of getting screwed over by government — is truly ambitious. Look out oppressed rich people! The socialists want to steal your privately earned money; they want to make “everybody poorer.”

The argument is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of how the economy actually works. In the real economy privately earned profit is a collaborative effort. The general public contributes to the earnings of the private sector. Every year the public makes huge investments in infrastructure, research and development grants, university education, and various forms of subsidies to private business. This is public money for the benefit of private profit. This contribution is vital to the economy.

How the Public Sector Contributes to Private Business

For instance, private corporations cannot bear all the risks required to invest huge amounts of money in expensive new technology. This is why most recent innovations, such as the development of the internet over the last few decades, have taken place with government involvement.

Another example: Consider the amount of money future generations will have to spend on cleaning up the environment after years of neglect. Will the private sector coordinate and pay for this effort? No, this will be the responsibility of citizens working publicly to protect public goods – something no private entity would ever or could ever initiate on its own. Corporations exist for one reason only: to make money. They are not designed to protect or sustain shared goods.

We may not like our current economic system. But the fact is that the government shoulders the risks of private enterprise and invests in the public goods required for the economy to function well. We simply do not know what it would be like to run an economy as complex as ours without some public coordination and planning.

It’s Not Perfect, But It’s Fair

Governments are not inherently good; they make mistakes. Governments are often influenced by special interests and often make decisions based on political calculation (for instance, take a look at the influence of money on politics under the administration of Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry in Texas). However, in democratic societies the public at least has the opportunity to influence elected officials. The public has very little influence on the behavior of private corporations.

While our economy will continue to reward private initiative, the public must also share in the profits of the private sector. This is because the public contributes to its stability and success in the first place. Warren Buffet’s call for higher taxes is therefore a question of fairness, not a question of “screwing the rich.”

Your Two Cents

Discussions about economic and political systems bring out the passion in people. So share yours with us! Do you agree with Glen?


With my father
I would watch dawn
over green fields.
by Kobayashi Issa

Lately I’ve been noticing more and more a growing number of dads picking up their kids from daycare and school. They’re on the subway, on the bus, in the street giving them an afternoon nap in their strollers, playing with them in the local park. It fills my heart with joy to see all the fathers so involved in their children’s lives. It used to be – at least it was when I was growing up – that Mom did that while Dad went to work. But I think this way is better – in fact, it’s been proven.

According to a Father Involvement for Healthy Child Outcomes: Partners Supporting Knowledge Development and Transfer (April 10, 2007) by Jessica Ball, M.P.H., Ph.D. and Ken Moselle, Ph.D., there is a lot of research proving the impacts of a father’s involvement on children.

Father’s involvement results in:

  • Enhanced Cognitive functioning and higher IQ
  • Better academic achievement
  • School connectedness
  • Higher educational attainment
  • Resiliency
  • Lower levels of depression
  • Life satisfaction
  • Self-acceptance/higher self-esteem
  • Less stress
  • Attachment
  • Supportive social networks
  • Positive peer relations
  • Empathy
  • Conformity to rules, conventions, values ethical standards
  • Less delinquent behaviour

The above is a summary of research conducted by Allen and Daly (2002) and Ball and Pedersen (2004). Source: www.fira.ca/cms/documents/123/PH_FI_Report_brief.pdf

So here’s to the Dads who’re making better people out of our children.

And no one is more deserving of thanks and respect than my husband, father to our beautiful 2.5 year old girl. Thank you, honey, for all you do for me and for our daughter. We need more Dads and husbands like you in this world!

I contemplated calling this post, “Women of the East, Rise Up!” but I had to reconsider. I think women of the East, and I’m referring specifically to Middle Eastern women, have already risen up. They’ve already stood up and made public the injustices and the stigmas they have endured for years – despite incredible social and religious taboos, despite repercussions with spouses and family members, and despite government official resistance.

I’m thinking specifically about my sisters in Egypt who have endured torture and dehumanizing treatment at the hands of the Egyptian military in recent days. Egyptian women, standing side by side with their male counterparts, have taken part in the Tahrir Square revolution and the protests that led to the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak on February 11, 2011. In March 2011, some of these protestors returned to Tahrir Square in support of activists and protestors the military was holding and not releasing. Security forces, having banned protest of any kind to ensure a return to normalcy (another topic altogether), arrested some of the protestors and detained them in the Cairo Museum. According to Salwa Hosseini, one of the women protestors detained by security forces that day, 17 of the women were taken to a military prison, beaten, electrocuted and forced to take virginity tests. They were threatened that if their virginity was not in tact, they were going to face prostitution charges. Salwa Hosseini and other women protestors were given suspended one-year sentences for disorderly conduct, destroying private and public property, obstructing traffic and carrying weapons.

I can’t tell you how this makes my blood boil. The consequences of this kind of torture goes beyond physical and psychological, it’s also social. The stigma of being labeled or charged with prostitution in Egypt and other Arab countries is a sentence of social ostracism at best with potentially fatal consequences.

Forcing women to have ‘virginity tests’ is utterly unacceptable. Its purpose is to degrade women because they are women. All members of the medical profession must refuse to take part in such so-called ‘tests’.
Amnesty International

I am amazed by the courage of these women. It’s truly inspiring, the stuff of legends. But my question is this: Where is the outrage over these atrocities committed against women in Egypt? Aren’t women in Egypt the pillar of society – the mothers, the sisters, the caregivers? Is not Egypt herself lovingly called the Mother of the World?

I know that progressives, activists and academics are outraged and that’s good. But where is the “every day” man’s anger? Even my own father at first dismissed these women’s pleas as “petty grievances” some protestors had with the Armed Forces. If my father, a well-educated, middle-class man thinks this way, what must the millions of less educated men and women think?

I think there is some serious need for education and advocacy. I’ve been looking at a few organizations and I will be contacting them to see how an ex-pat can be of assistance to these issues.

Children of Egypt, Mother of the World, when will you stand up in outrage against what is done to the Daughters of Egypt? When will this revolution from oppression and tyranny translate into equality and freedom for women?

Last week was March Break. I got on the bus to go to work and sat behind an adorable little boy and his mother. I watched them enviously as they talked about what they were going to do that day, wishing I, too, could be spending the day with my little one. Then the little boy began to sing, “Baby, baby, baby, oh!”

I was shocked that he knew that song because he couldn’t have been more than 3 years old. I remember thinking (and tweeting), “Whatever happened to ‘Twinkle, twinkle’ or ‘Row, row, row your boat’?”

Before you skin me alive for insulting the great Justin Bieber, hear me out. I don’t think that Justin Bieber is a bad musician or that his music is bad (at least not very bad). I’m not a fan of his, but I can respect that he’s a self-taught musician who sings well. I do think, however, that his music is not the best music out there and that it’s not appropriate for a 3 or 4 year old. He wasn’t really aiming for that demographic, anyway.

What do you mean by “best music”?

Yes, I do think there’s good and bad music. Yes, I agree that it is a matter of taste… but only to a certain degree. Let’s look at some facts:

  • “It is during the childhood stage of neural development that we see the corpus callosum complete its development and allows both hemispheres of the brain to respond to an event simultaneously. Since studies of musicians have found their corpus collasum is thickened and more fully developed, the idea that the music enlarges existing neural pathways is reinforced.” Campbell, Don. The Mozart Effect. New York: Avon. 1997. Source: cmfinc.org
  • Music helps you think by activating and synchronizing neural firing patterns that orchestrate and connect multiple brain sites. The neural synchrony ensembles increase both the brain’s efficiency and effectiveness. (Burton, Horowitz, & Abeles, 1999, p. 2) Source: cmfinc.org
  • A follow up to the first Mozart study confirms that listening to Mozart improves spatial reasoning, and that this effect can increase with repeated testing over days. However, the effect may not occur when music lacks sufficient complexity. (Frances Rauscher, Gordon Shaw and Katherine Ky, Neuroscience Letters, Vol. 185, p. 44-47) Emphasis is my own. Source: musiceducationmadness.com

I know I’m being selective with citing research on music. But let’s face it; this is a blog not a scientific journal.

The point I want to focus on is that music affects the way the brain makes neural connections and in order to do that the music must contain sufficient complexity. When we talk about music complexity, we’re talking about harmony, contrapuntal density, and a level of “difficulty” that only a trained musician can achieve. The genres of music that usually fall under this category are classical (instrumental, opera, choral, song cycles, art songs, etc.), jazz, well-developed folk/rock.

Some people may not even include folk/rock, but it’s hard for me not to because there are some amazing musicians out there who are creating brilliant music. But that’s a whole other blog article!

It requires wisdom to understand wisdom; the music is nothing if the audience is deaf.
Walter J. Lippmann, American essayist and editor

Are you suggesting my child only listen to classical music?

The simple answer to that question is NO. My daughter doesn’t listen to only classical music. She has a playlist that consists of classical, jazz, folk/rock, and world music (which I think is a horrible term but it’s recognizable so I’ll use it for the time being). Why? Because variety is the spice of life and because I believe her horizons should be open to everything.

However, I choose the best of the best for her. What she fondly calls “piano music,” is actually Beethoven’s piano sonatas. Her “violin music,” is a collection of Mozart piano concertos. She loves “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and we were fortunate enough to find a Ladysmith Black Mambazo version which incorporates story telling as well as singing. It’s so, so beautiful. She listens to Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Joni Mitchell, Feist, Eva Cassidy, Jamie Lidell, Adele, Elizabeth Mitchell (amazing children’s music and folk singer) and music from Africa and the Middle East. There is a lot of singing and dancing at our house and it’s making us a better family for it.

The Argument for Appropriateness

I hope you’ve gathered by now that I’m not only arguing for age or developmental appropriateness of the music children listen to, but also for its quality, complexity and overall beauty. Next time you play music for your child, listen carefully and judge if it’s worthy of your child’s precious ears.

I’m afraid to ask because I know I might get bombarded. Your thoughts?

A treat for you:

Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”

Elizabeth Mitchell’s “Who’s my pretty baby?”

The ruby is among the most highly prized of gemstones. Large rubies are harder to find than large diamonds, emeralds and sapphires. As a result, the value of a ruby increases with size more than any other gemstone. In the Orient, rubies were once believed to contain the spark of life – “a deep drop of the heart’s blood of Mother Earth,” according to ancient Eastern legends.

In Praise of Wisdom

“Better Than Rubies” is a strange name for a blog, I’ll give you that. It was inspired by the Wisdom literature of the Bible, part of the Ketuvim (the Writings) of the Hebrew Bible.

For wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.

Proverbs 8:11, New International Version

I think that too many people today have stopped listening to the wisdom imparted by former generations, by literature, by writings of holy books, and by sitting down and just meditating on life and how we fit in it. I know that I myself have gone into autopilot mode for the past few years. And who wouldn’t when you’re working full-time, raising a toddler, maintaining a classical musical training, all while trying to have a meaningful relationship with your spouse and some semblance of a social life. I have stopped meditating or even just sitting down without the TV on and thinking. But that ends now and I hope you will join me in my journey of seeking wisdom.

In Praise of Women

I am also fascinated by the use of rubies as a comparison for “a virtuous woman.” When I read that, I don’t think of the old fashioned notions and roles that women held in past generations. I think of character, strength, independence and fierce courage. I believe that’s what it takes to be a virtuous woman today – a woman that leaves behind a trace of goodness, compassion, and inspiration wherever she goes and in whatever she undertakes. Research shows that empowering girls and women in developing countries yields some of the highest returns of all investments – both private and social benefits that accrue to individuals, families, and to society at large. (Source: http://www.web.worldbank.org) That’s why Care Canada runs an entire campaign targeted to educating girls and women called “I Am Powerful.” When women are empowered, everyone benefits.

Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies.

Proverbs 31:10, King James Bible

Looking for hidden gems

Finding flawless, large rubies is, I am told, rare. I hope my search for wisdom and my exploration of women’s issues won’t be. I look forward to your comments and to reading your blogs.

How do you define wisdom? What is a “virtuous woman” and is that someone we really need in today’s world?